Percussion Concerto ‘Siedi’*; Symphony No. 5
*Colin Currie; Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Dima Slobodeniouk
BIS BIS-2336 (CD/SACD) 68:38 mins
Kalevi Aho (b1949), a prolific orchestral composer of some 17 symphonies to date and double that in concertos, deserves far greater recognition beyond his native Finland. This impeccably produced album pairs blockbusters from different stages of his career: the percussion concerto Sieidi (2010), Aho’s most performed work, and the lesser-known yet more compelling Symphony No. 5 (1975-6).
Colin Currie, for whom Sieidi was written, delivers a knockout account with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Dima Slobodeniouk. The Sámi title denotes a place of ancient shamanic ritual, and further cultures are signposted, with African drums part of the percussion line-up; the idiom, though, is robustly western, with Shostakovich a clear influence through eight showpiece sections in which material is spectacularly hurled between soloist and orchestra.
The Symphony, similarly intense and explosive, is a yet more ambitious work in which the polyphony becomes so complex that two conductors are required. From nervy, obsessive figuration to ironic repose and surging climaxes, the orchestra plays with a force redolent of compressed Mahler. Jaan Ots joins a well-honed team for a nuanced yet overwhelming rendition, linear pathways always clear despite the welter of sound.